An opinionated, technical survey of air warfare.
Leading military historian van Creveld (The Land of Blood and Honey: The Rise of Modern Israel, 2010, etc.) includes both naval aviation (e.g., the importance of the use of carriers at Midway and the Falklands) and space (e.g., missiles, satellites and drones), taking into account the effort of fabricating these fabulous machines by war-happy nations. The author considers the awkward beginnings; the heyday in the 1920s when flying was fun (making races and world records); the serious business of two world wars, especially World War II (the rapid development of radar “promised to change the entire nature of war in the air”); and the “little wars” that proved so devastating and decisive to the fates of great nations since 1945 (e.g., Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan). From the beginning, the makers of flying machines knew their value to armies, and the Wright Brothers indeed tried to sell their invention to the U.S. Army, which at first declined. Van Creveld delves into what he calls the important “civilized” versus “uncivilized” wars between 1919 and 1939—“civilized” being wars waged between equal powers (e.g., the Spanish Civil War, which allowed the Germans and Soviets to test their air-fighter strength) and “uncivilized” wars waged on third-world countries in Asia and Africa. Some of the latter air battles garner especially compelling treatment, such as airpower used in Korea, which didn’t have any industry or strategic targets to speak of, and was a war notable for the use of helicopters; and the 1967 air attack by Israel on the Sinai, the second largest after Korea and a victorious showcase of air strength. Chapters entitled “The Twilight of Naval Aviation” and “Going Down, 1945-?” give an idea of the author’s belief in the dwindling effectiveness of this once-dynamic arm of the military.
A polished, readable narrative by an expert.